From the thanks for painting a target on my back department comes word of a new paper that attempts to figure our the mapping of the climate skeptic blogosphere.
Bishop Hill writes:
Readers may remember Amelia Sharman as one of the authors of the “Entrepreneur” paper, about the disreputable shenanigans that led to the EU’s biofuels mandate.
Amelia is now in the midst of a PhD looking at global warming sceptics and has just published a working paper, describing the results of a social network analysis of sceptic blogs.
The paper abstract is (full paper link follows):
Title: Mapping the climate sceptical blogosphere
Author: Amelia Sharmanab
Affiliation: a Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
While mainstream scientific knowledge production has been extensively examined in the academic literature, comparatively little is known about alternative networks of scientific knowledge production. Online sources such as blogs are an especially under-investigated site of knowledge contestation. Using degree centrality and node betweenness tests from social network analysis, and thematic content analysis of individual posts, this research identifies and critically examines the climate sceptical blogosphere and investigates whether a focus on particular themes contributes to the positioning of the most central blogs. A network of 171 individual blogs is identified, with three blogs in particular found to be the most central: Climate Audit, JoNova and Watts Up With That. These blogs predominantly focus on the scientific element of the climate debate, providing either a direct scientifically-based challenge to mainstream climate science, or a critique of the conduct of the climate science system, and appear to be less preoccupied with other types of scepticism that are prevalent in the wider public debate such as ideologically or values-motivated scepticism. It is possible that these central blogs in particular are not only acting as translators between scientific research and lay audiences, but, in their reinterpretation of existing climate science knowledge claims, are filling a void by opening up climate science to those who may have been previously unengaged by the mainstream knowledge process and, importantly, acting themselves as public sites of alternative expertise for a climate sceptical audience.
The full open access paper can be seen here.
There is only one little fatal mistake IMHO on sentence one of the paper:
Evidence supporting the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic cause is overwhelming in the peer-reviewed literature (J. Cook et al. 2013; Doran and Zimmerman 2009).
Apparently she’s not following just how messed up the Cook et al. paper is. Maybe she and Dr. Richard Tol can talk.
This made me laugh:
While the academic literature to date has focused on the manifestation of climate scepticism in mainstream media forums (Boykoff 2007; Schmidt et al. 2013), little work has been done to understand why climate sceptical blogs exist and what their role may be as public sites of knowledge contestation.
She has no idea why we exist? Better not tell her then, its a big Exxon-Mobil trade secret /sarc. Or, maybe she can ask her Grantham Institute co-worker and ex punk rocker Bob Ward, who I’m sure has an opinion about the matter.
On the plus side, there is this:
Table 7 shows that WUWT is an extremely central node according to this test. The results of this test are interpreted against the mean betweenness score. WUWT has a score of 3971.52, significantly higher than the mean score of 180.31. As anticipated, there was a large overlap between the results for this test and those for Freeman’s in-degree centrality, with six blogs appearing in both sets of results. Accordingly, Climate Audit, ICECAP, JoNova and No Frakking Consensus also join the short-list of the most central blogs.
I think the mean score of 180.31 is a typo, likely 1800 and change.
WUWT is an extremely prolific blog, with 190 posts for March 2012 alone; however, the posts analysed had several reoccurring sub-themes under the overall category of science, with a predominant interest in alternative explanations for climate models, temperature data or human-induced climate change, largely in the form of scientifically-based challenges to published science.
The conclusion is also interesting, an excerpt:
The most noteworthy finding of this research however is that the blogs identified as the most central predominantly focus on the scientific element of the climate debate. Within this overall focus, providing a direct scientifically-based challenge to mainstream climate science, or a critique of the conduct of the climate science system (such as individual climate scientists’ actions or institutional decision-making) appear to be particularly important themes. As highlighted above, the direct scientific challenge that the climate sceptical blogosphere provides may be thought of as either trend or attribution scepticism (Rahmstorf 2005). The blogosphere’s focus on the scientific element of climate scepticism is important because it stands in direct contrast to research carried out among the general public, where the prevalence of trend and attribution scepticism is low compared to other types of scepticism, such as scepticism regarding the need for mitigation policies (Akter et al. 2012). This result also contradicts claims that climate science is ‘adrift in the blogosphere’ (Schäfer 2012: 529) because even though few climate scientists themselves blog—and are suggested to mainly focus on addressing the “pseudoscience” implied as existing within the climate sceptic blogosphere (Schäfer 2012)—this does not mean that science itself is not an active topic of discussion.
Still, that won’t stop climate zealots like Joe Romm and others from claiming WUWT and other skeptical blogs are “anti-science”, since that’s a convenient label for them to pitch to their low-information readers.
As always, thanks to my contributors, readers, and moderators for helping to put WUWT at the center of the climate blogosphere.